School board putting iPad project to test
Hamilton’s public school board is backpedalling on a commitment to provide iPads to every student in Grades 4 to 12 until it studies their impact at the elementary level.
Education director Manny Figueiredo said staff still support giving iPads to all high school students but wants to first see if there’s evidence the computer tablets improve student achievement in the lower grades.
The board has thus far provided kits of six iPads to all classrooms in Grades 4 to 6, other than at seven elementary schools in the city’s core where all students in Grades 4 to 8 have received individual devices as part of a five-year pilot project.
Figueiredo said the pilot, now in its third year, will help determine the benefits of individual iPads and when they should be introduced.
“We don’t have evidence right now,” Figueiredo told trustees at their program committee meeting last week. “We do want to look at those pilot schools closely and determine what is the entry point.”
Known as Transforming Learning Everywhere, the iPad initiative is heading into year four of a fiveyear rollout, and will provide individual tablets to all Grade 10s and kits to all Grade 7 and Grade 8 classrooms this fall.
All Grade 9s received individual iPads last year, with Delta and Sir John A. Macdonald students also getting them in Grade 10.
As part of a pilot study, Nora Henderson Secondary School is already providing iPads to all students in Grades 9 to 12, and Figueiredo said it’s clear they are meeting a goal of encouraging collaborative, inquiry-based learning there.
He said individual iPads are essential at high school to allow students to access online learning resources, but the necessity is less clear at the elementary level.
Brandy Doan, manager of the board’s research department, said to gauge the impact, a study will look at least 300 students in three groups and test a hypothesis that the initiative is improving report card marks and learning skills in a range of subjects.
Board chair Todd White said the study is “the responsible approach,” even if it means potentially backing away from the commitment to provide tablets to all students in Grades 4 to 8.
“There’s no doubt that electronic medium is taking off, so that’s the benefit, but the one piece that is the bigger question mark is the academic achievement,” he said.
The $2.1-million expenditure on the 2017-18 rollout still needs to be approved in this year’s budget.